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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Aesthetics and critical pedagogy: a critique of Parsons’ stage theory of aesthetic development Balomenos-Trifonas, Elefteria


The present study brings to light the limitations of Parsons' (1987) stage theory of aesthetic development by facilitating a critical examination of it through the postmodern tenets manifest within critical pedagogy. It is pointed out that the aesthetic phenomenon exists as an entity within experience which ultimately denies definitive conceptual absolutes in its description. A divergency of theoretical positions within aesthetic traditions are reviewed so as to convey the problems and limitations of an aesthetic developmental theory which restricts responses to a designated sequence of possibilities. Aesthetic experience exists as a complex network of alternatives, not easily ordered into clearly definable conceptual frameworks from which to base teaching practices. Although Parsons' theory offers a structured order which identifies sequentially appropriate objectives for the teaching of aesthetics, it is critically rendered suspect based on the philosophical predispositions of critical pedagogy. It is argued that ideological biases maintained through cultural membership serve to orient researcher and subject belief systems so as to allow for normative behaviour(s) to be presented as given and natural rather than their being considered as culturally legitimated developments. Parsons' structural theory, which offers a strictly Eurocentrically biased conceptual itinerary, is critically assessed for the moral and ethical implication it imposes on subordinate group populations. Marginalized group belief systems are implicitly denied due recognition as valid and valuable options within experience. Critical pedagogy, as it is delineated within the present study, exposes the limiting and restrictive nature of an educational agenda which offers a definitive and a closed system of developmental possibilities.

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